Don’t get mixed up about Christmas In July on the island!
For the past couple of decades, the island has had two Christmas celebrations. One was celebrated by even the earliest island pioneers on December 25th and continues to be celebrated to this day, The second Christmas was celebrated as Christmas in July. We all know the story of the real Christmas, but the one in July, as it pertains to the island, began a number of years ago when a local Put-in-Bay Bar began
to market it to increase business. It didn’t take long and the event began to be celebrated by the community as a whole, and with the blessing of the Put-in-Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau At first there were holiday lights all around the village, decorated and lit boats parading through the harbor and at the Put-in-Bay Docks, a Christmas parade through the village, and even Santa made an appearance. It took a lot of work to make it all happen. As the years went by, the event began to suffer a slow death. There were no more
decorated boats in the Bay, nor were there floats for a jolly parade around the park.
One by one, the bright Christmas lights in the windows and on the buildings disappeared. There were a few vestiges of the dying event around town like the big blow-up Santa at the Crew’s Nest, and there were always a bunch private boats decorated with holiday lights, but the writing was definitely on the wall. Even the young ladies dressed in tight and revealing Santa outfits became scarcer and scarcer. The Chamber and businesses were still promoting the event, but it was becoming obvious there was no real need to put on anything fancy as the crowds continued to come.
Then, about a half-dozen or so years ago, things took a turn, the crowds that came for Christmas in July began to become the cause of concern. The increase in open containers, the smell of pot in the air, the flaunting of the law, the large uninvited groups congregating on private property, and the sickening amounts of litter left behind on the streets and in the park made the Christmas in July weekends like no
other busy weekend. Many businesses also began complaining about problems with patrons and, in some cases, dramatic decreases in normal summer weekend revenues. We heard more than one island employee tell us of customers saying they would never come back after seeing what the island was like on this weekend.
The Put-in-Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau soon took it off their Put-in-Bay calendar of events, but a few businesses persisted.
The holiday became worse and worse and island officials became concerned about safety to the point that more than 100 law enforcement officers were on the island for the event this last summer. The bad publicity from the event and resulting problems were just the opposite of what the original Christmas in July promoters had envisioned.
For the last five years or so, people would talk about their disdain for the weekend, but 2018 was the year that changed everything. No tourist community wants the word “chaos” in any headline dealing with their community, but that’s what we as a community were getting. A large group of business people met at the Senior Center after the event and formed the Christmas In July Safe Island Task Force, a group which has now been working diligently since last summer to turn the weekend around and bring some sanity back to the island. They have been approaching the issue from all aspects, and we recommend giving the group your support in any way you can.
In early November, one of the last holdouts, hotel owner Mark Mathys who operates several large island-promoting web sites and Put-in-Bay Hotels & Resorts, put out a post on the internet saying Put-in-Bay has canceled the Christmas in July weekend. The post went viral and made headlines from Cleveland to Detroit in the media. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next when it comes to celebrating Christmas twice a year on Put-in-Bay, but it looks encouraging that we just might be celebrating only the real Christmas on the island from now on.
Editor’s Note: We found this about Christmas in July on the Internet a while back. It’s good for a chuckle. “Still, most of the island’s returning party people will mark their calendars for Christmas in July, July 26-29. The debaucherous blowout covers the town in over-the-top holiday decorations, while intoxicated Santas stagger the streets. We get a preview of that famous Put-in-Bay summer party scene Saturday night at the Round House, where locals of every legal drinking age converge in Afro wigs, go-go boots and neon polyester minidresses for buckets of beer, big-hugged reunions and plenty of grooving to the 70′ cover band.